Pope Francis addressed a gathering of youth climate activists Wednesday, thanking them for their concern about climate change and urging them to help build a "culture of care" as they fight for solutions to global warming.
The pontiff encouraged the young activists to continue their efforts "for the good of humanity," adding that their vision "is capable of challenging the adult world."
"It is said that you are the future, but in these matters, you are the present. You are those who are making the future today, in the present," he said in a video message that was broadcast at the Youth4Climate event in Milan.
The pope said solutions to climate change, including sustainable development and production, must be built on unity and a shared sense of responsibility.
“There must be harmony between people, men and women, and the environment,” he said. “We are not enemies. We are not indifferent. We are part of this cosmic harmony.”
Thousands of climate campaigners are attending the three-day conference in northern Italy, where youth representatives from more than 190 countries are set to draft proposals for climate action that will be presented to policymakers.
Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg spoke at the event Tuesday, accusing governments of not taking aggressive enough action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and demanding greater accountability from world leaders.
"They are clearly not listening to us," the 18-year-old said. "Just look at the numbers. Emissions are still rising. The science doesn't lie."
The Youth4Climate event comes just weeks before world leaders will convene in Scotland for the United Nations' climate change conference. At the landmark meeting, countries are expected to negotiate and set forth updated targets to reduce emissions by 2030, as part of the Paris Agreement.
The pope is a strong supporter of the Paris accord, a global pact that was forged in 2015 and signed by more than 190 countries to work together to avert catastrophic climate change. That same year, the pontiff penned an encyclical that called for a revolution to save the Earth. The document urged people to stop polluting and exploiting the planet, to abandon materialistic and wasteful lifestyles, and to protect those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of global warming.